About this Recording
8.553352 - Tugend und Untugend: German Music from the Time of Luther
English 

Ensemble Villanella

Ensemble Villanella

 

The century from 1450 to 1550 brings an awakening, an establishment and a golden age of German music. The Fundamentum organisandi by the Nuremberg organist

Conrad Paumann and the Buxheimer Orgelbuch are evidence of the German pioneering work in the field of keyboard music. The newly discovered polyphonic possibilities of the lute are explored by German musicians and starting with Lied manuscripts such as the Lochamer Liederbuch and the Glogauer Liederbuch, the Lied reaches new heights. Among the principal composers and innovators in the art of the Lied are Heinrich Isaac, Paul Hofhaimer and Ludwig Senfl, while the development of printing soon led in Germany to the introduction of music printing.

 

The Franco-Flemish composer Heinrich Isaac was particularly active in Italy and in Austria, where between 1497 and 1514 he held the position of court composer to Maximilian I. From 1480 to 1492 he served Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, where he was cathedral organist, thereafter moving to Innsbruck and then to Vienna in the imperial service. He spent the last three years of his life in Florence, where he died in 1517. One of the most skilled and prolific composers of his time, he composed, in addition to large scale Masses and motets, songs and instrumental music. The song on which the five-part Carmen [1] is based has not been found, while the music alone survives of the popular song In meinem Sinn [5,7,8]. Songs by Isaac included are Greiner, Zancker [ll], Mein Freud allein [16), an instrumental prelude on Ich stund an einem Morgen [26], a contrapuntal piece on the notes La Mi La Sol (A-E-A-G) [30] and a version of a song Las rauschen [35], the words of which, preserved in a quodlibet by Wolfgang Schmetzel from 1544, are about love-making in a field of clover.

 

Paul Hofhaimer was born in Radstadt in 1459 and established himself as an organist of international reputation, becoming organist to Maximilian I in 1490 and from about 1520 to 1537 organist to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. He was also distinguished as a teacher, numbering among his pupils Hans Kotter. The lyrical qualities of his music are evident in the examples of his work here included, Erst weis ich, was die Liebe ist [6), Greiner, Zanner [14], Mein einigs A [31 and 32] and Zucht, Eer und Lob [33 and 34].

 

Another musician in the service of Maximilian I was Heinrich Finck, who served in his time three Polish kings. From 1510 to 1513 he was Kapellmeister to Duke Ulrich in Stuttgart, then court musician to Maximilian I in Augsburg. In 1520 he was appointed composer to the chapter of the Cathedral in Salzburg and in 1525 and 1526 was court Kapellmeister to the Emperor Ferdinand I in Vienna. He died in 1527. Famous for his liturgical compositions, he also won a reputation for his secular tenor songs, most often using his own melodies. These give evidence of the highest level of feeling for melody and contrapuntal skill. Greiner, Zanner [12] uses the song for an instrumental piece and Gloria, laus et honor [23] derives an instrumental composition from a tenor Gregorian theme, reflecting as in many Mass movement of this period, the rhythm of the basse-

danse.

 

The Flemish musician Arnold von Bruck, born, as his name tells us, in Bruges, was a pupil of Finck and from 1527 to 1546 was Kapellmeister to Ferdinand I in Vienna, continuing earlier service of the Hapsburgs. Although ordained priest in 1546, he wrote a quantity of music apparently for Protestant use and was much respected by contemporaries for his songs. So trinken wir alle [19] is an instrumental version of a drinking-song by Arnold von Bruck while the song Es ging ein Landsknecht uber Feld [36] includes in its text an interesting list of plants with aphrodisiac qualities.

 

The great Flemish composer Jacob Obrecht, a native of Berg-op-Zoom, with Josquin and Isaac a leading figure in the music of the period, worked in Cambrai, Bruges and Antwerp, dying in the service of the ducal court of Ferrara in 1505. Immensely prolific, he wrote some 26 Masses, 32 motets and 30 secular pieces, many of the latter possibly instrumental, since they lack texts. His instrumental Stat ein Meskin [2] is clearly based on a secular song.

 

The Swiss organist and composer Ludwig Senfl was born in ZUrich c. 1492, trained

as a chorister, and studied with Isaac in Constance, serving later as his assistant in Augsburg. He was appointed court chamber composer to Maximilian 1, a position he held in succession to Isaac from 1514 to 1519, and was subsequently active in Passau and at the Bavarian court in Munich. A Catholic composer with some Protestant sympathies, he wrote a quantity of music for the Catholic liturgy, Lutheran chorale variations and some 250 superbly crafted and imaginative songs. It is largely on these last that his fame rests. Will niemand singen [3], Ein Maidlein zue dem Brunnen ging [4], Dort oben auf dem Berge [9], Nun wollt ihr horen neue Mar' [15], Ich soll und muess einen Buehlen haben [17], Oho, so geb' der Mann ein'n Pfennig [18], Es wollt' ein Maidlein Wasser hol'n [21], Es wollt' ein Frau zuem Weine gahn [22], Ich stuend an einem Morgen [27] and Ich weiβ nicht, was er ihr verhieβ [38] exemplify Senfl's gifts as a song composer, with a four-part instrumental version of the last of these [37], an instrumental Lamentatio [24] on a tenor of liturgical derivation and an instrumental version of the song Albrecht mirs schwer [29].

 

Hofhaimer's pupil Hans Kotter, born in strasbourg in about 1485, was organist at the Church of St Nicholas in Freiburg before a period of exile, in the religious disturbances of the day, brought him to Berne as a schoolmaster. His importance lies in particular in his book of tablature (1513-1522), which includes some 67 works by various composers, including Hofhaimer, Isaac and Josquin. In meinem Sinn [7] is a keyboard setting of the famous melody, with a transcription of Hofhaimer's Min einigs A [32] and of his Zucht, Eer und Lob [33]. Leonhard Kleber apparently from Wurttemberg, a pupil of Amolt schlick, the Heidelberg organist, was himself organist in Esslinger and subsequently in Pforzheim, where he died in 1556. In 1534 he published an organ tablature book that includes 112 pieces by composers including Finck, Hofhaimer, Isaac, Josquin and 5enfl.

In meinem Sinn [5] is a keyboard version of the lost song of that name.

 

Other collections of music of the period are found in the Glogauer Liederbuch, a manuscript from about 1480 that includes sacred and secular songs and a number of short instrumental pieces. The secular songs are characterized by an earthy and exuberant popular style, as in Zenner, Greyner [10], the oldest of the songs here recorded, on a familiar theme.

 

Representative of a later generation, Nikolaus Ammerbach, organist for 35 years at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, published two books of organ tablature which include dance music, chorales and perhaps excessively ornamented transcriptions of motets and songs by Isaac, Senfl, Lassus and others. Die Megdlein sind von Flandern [13], a four-part piece re-arranged from organ tablature of 1571, is included because of its melodic affinity with the Zenner, Greiner / Greiner, Zanner variants.

 

Of the remaining composers and collectors whose music is included on the present recording, Georg Rhaw, printer and composer, issued both Lutheran sacred music and secular songs from his printing-shop in Wittenberg from 1525. He is represented here by the song Ich stuend an einem Morgen [28]. Wolfgang Kiiffer, a student at Wittenberg in the 1550s, wrote down some 314 compositions in his five part-books, with titles in Latin, German, French and Italian, with or without texts. Heth sold ein meisken garn om win [20] is a drinking-song. Gregor Meyer, organist at Solothum and then at the reformed Cathedral in Basle, is represented by a two-part composition, a Bicinium, in strict canon at the fifth [25].

 

Instruments

 

This recording offers musical interpretations with generally four different types of sound: (a) a loud wind group (musica alta); (b) an ensemble with string instruments, flute, recorders and singers (musica bassa); (c) a quartet consisting of two singers, modern guitar and a wind instrument obligato, historical or modern; (d) a very soft clavichord.

 

The clavichord, first mentioned and depicted around 1400, is the oldest keyboard instrument with hammered strings. Its very simple action, with the striking metal tongue immediately stopping the vibrating string, gives the instrument two characteristic effects. The player's finger on the keyboard has a direct and continuous contact with the string and control of the tone production, and the sound is extremely soft. Its common use, was therefore, often private and domestic.

 

The cornemuse (dulcina, doucaine) is a capped reed instrument, related to the crumhorn but built in straight form and with a muted and mellow sound. The actual type, Hummelchen, "little bumble-bee", a reference to its buzzing sound, is also used as the chanter of a small bagpipe with the same name.

 

The crumhom is the most important of the capped reed instruments of the Renaissance. It has a curved (German: krumm) form and appears in four or five sizes. The sound produced is nasally buzzing, but rather powerful.

 

The curtal (dulcian) is the predecessor of today's bassoon. It is made out of piece of wood and is built in a family of up to six sizes, the bass (in German Chorist-Fagott, corresponding to the modem bassoon), being the most important.

 

The fiddle (vielle) is an important medieval string instrument; a predecessor of the violin with 3- 5 strings. In the Renaissance its tasks were more and more taken over by the viol and the violin, restricting the simpler fiddle to folk music.

 

The word harp can imply many forms of the instrument in different sizes. The type used for this recording is a simple, rather small knee-harp, tuned to a diatonic scale.

 

The lute became very important in the Renaissance, since, around 1500, lute-players discarded the plectrum, fretted the fingerboard and developed the technique of polyphonic performance.

 

The recorder (Blockflote, flute a bec), according to Sebastian Virdung in 1511, was built in a family of three or four sizes. During the following hundred years the popular family would increase to as many as nine members.

 

The shawm (Schalmei / Pommer, chalemie / bombarde) is the most important reed instrument in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a loud predecessor of today's oboe instruments. Around 1500 it existed in at least three sizes, descant, treble (alto) and tenor.

 

The trombone (sackbut. Posaune) was invented almost in its modem form already around 1440. It soon became important and started developing different sizes with the most useful tenor as chief instrument.

 

The transverse flute (cross flute, traverso, Querflote), in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance a simple wooden tube with blowing hole and six finger holes, existed around 1500 already in three sizes, the middle one, the tenor (corresponding in size to the modem normal flute) being the most important.

 

The viol (viola da gamba, Gambe), a sophisticated bowed string instrument with frets on the finger-board, was developed in the fifteenth century and around 1500 existed in three sizes with the bass as chief instrument.

 

Convivium Musicum (Gothenburgense)

 

The Convivium Musicum Gothenburgense (leader: Sven Berger) consists of singers and musicians devoted to early music and to its performance on authentic instruments. Most of the members of the ensemble are teachers, students and former students of the School of Music and Musicology of the University of Goteborg, Sweden. The ensemble works frequently with experts on early dance and has produced recordings of Renaissance songs and dance music.

 

Ensemble Villanelles

 

The Ensemble Villanella, with Andreas Edlund (clavichord), Sven Berger (cornemuse, flute, recorder, tenor), Charlotte Edstrom (alto. Soprano), Helena Ek (soprano) and Anders Karlsson (guitar), was formed in 1987 and since then has been active in performance both in Sweden and abroad, notably in Estonia, Germany and Japan, The repertoire of the ensemble ranges from troubadour songs of the twelfth century to folk-music and contemporary jazz.


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